Rising labor costs could force more North Texas cities to adopt automatic trash pickup, where a robotic arm lifts and dumps 95-gallon bins. That means the days of trash collectors hanging on the back of a truck picking up bags could be numbered. And with it, twice a week trash pickup.
“It’s becoming more and more challenging to attract and retain employees to do that job,” said Vince Hrabal, municipal services manager for Republic Services. “This is probably going to be the method of collection going forward because of the pricing difference.”
Fort Worth has used this method for years through its contract with Waste Management. Hrabal said he expects more cities to follow.
Mansfield officials are wrestling with which way to go as the city’s contract with Republic Services ends Oct. 1. Residents pay $11.49 per month for twice-a-week trash pickup using traditional trash bags and manual labor to load it into the trucks.
To keep that same level of service with Republic, the cost would go up to $13.10 per month under the new contract.
Hrabal proposed a second option where all Mansfield residents would get a cart that can be rolled to the curb on trash day. Pickup would be reduced to once a week with all pickup — trash, recycling and bulk — being done on the same day. Mansfield would be divided into five zones.
Mansfield already uses bins for recycling. Bulk pickup for tree limbs, furniture and other items would still be done using manual labor.
Under this proposal, the cost would be $12.51 a month, still an increase but it’s 59 cents cheaper than staying with the current service level.
“I think we bring the option of a high level of service in a range of rates that’s right in the middle of where the market is currently,” Hrabal said.
Some Mansfield City Council members opposed the idea of raising the rate while cutting back services. The rate would go up either way, though.
Hrabal said the average price for once-a-week trash service is $15 while it’s $16.50 for twice a week service.
The issue was discussed in a June 25 work session and no final decision was made.
Mayor David Cook directed staff to have the decision ready for a vote at the Aug. 13 meeting.
Mansfield has contracted with Republic Services since 2003.
All the cities that Hrabal oversees in Tarrant County, including Arlington, Grand Prairie, Mansfield and Southlake, use manual labor.
“None have converted to trash carts,” Hrabal said. “Mansfield could be the first.”
If the city decides to go to automatic trash pickup, Republic Services would order a new fleet of trucks and likely launch the new service in February, Hrabal said. The rate would go up when the new service begins.
In 2016, Republic Services renewed its contract with Southlake but leaders in that city opted to continue using manual labor to maintain twice-a-week service. The rate is $14.55 per month.
Watauga already uses trash bins and automatic pickup once a week through Progressive Waste. The cost is $9.97 per month with a special rate for seniors of $8.50.